Monday, October 10, 2011

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 3)


I'm not sure whether this qualifies as the best season overall, but the Mayor is by far the best "big bad" Buffy encounters.  And there are certainly some great standalone episodes as well--"The Wish", "Band Candy", "Homecoming", and "The Zeppo", just to name a few.  Some story arcs (particularly those involving relational infidelity) are less than welcome, and this is, of course, Angel's last season as an regular cast member (Angel premiered during season 4 of Buffy).  Season 3 also introduces future cast members/Whedonverse regulars Faith, Anya, and Wesley Wyndam-Price (though he relocated to the Angel set).

As for the rest of the gang, Buffy is still a great crier, and she sells her (frequent) emotional turmoil quite convincingly.  Angel and Faith are a little rockier in the "convincing acting" department, and Xander and Willow are not at their best in this particular season (though that is more the fault of the writers than the actors).

Fortunately, this season explores further the connection between Giles and Buffy--with the introduction of Wesley as the new Watcher, their relationship becomes even more familial.  And Giles, removed from his role as ostensible "authority" figure, is free to engage in plenty of delicious British snarking (often at Wesley's expense).  Oz continues to be pretty much awesome (following one brief stumble in "Dead Man's Party").  And Cordelia, though relegated to a more peripheral role about halfway through the season, still manages to make the most of her screentime and reminds the audience why she was kept on as a cast member in Angel.

But really, the Mayor is the main reason this season works so well.  He is a delightful combination of small-town nice guy and totally unscrupulous psychopath.  And he seems to be having such a good time!  (Villains are almost always more effective when they seem to be enjoying their villainy.  In this way, he bears a striking resemblance to Old Spike.)

One of the season's most interesting and complex developments is the Mayor's relationship with the damaged Faith and their genuine affection for one another--it adds a necessary depth to two characters who could have easily become mere caricatures rather than characters.  (And Eliza Dushku's acting improves significantly in her scenes with the Mayor--she is much more convincing when her softness and affection begins to surface).  Just as Faith represents a corruption of Buffy, the Faith/Mayor relationship is a twisted version of Buffy's own relationship with Giles. 

All in all, a very solid season, even if it did manage to wring more than a few tears from me.

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